After seven rounds, five different winners, and more than 300 stage miles, the 2009 Hankook MSA Scottish Rally Championship is set for a thrilling finish on the Colin McRae Forest Stages in Perthshire next Saturday.

Dumfries ace David Bogie is close to securing the overall title on the event which saw his maiden SRC win in 2007 - but he knows that any errors could put paid to his ambitions.

Borderer Euan Thorburn - who has already won Group N - is waiting in the wings should Bogie slip up on the classic forest stages, and Mike Faulkner still has a chance of snatching the crown, after a non-finish on the penultimate round, the Merrick Forest Stages.

However, it is Bogie who holds the strongest hand going into the Perth-based event and the 22-year-old, alongside co-driver Kevin Rae, will be looking at the bigger picture rather than outright victory.

"We plan to win the championship and not bother too much about times on the way", said Bogie: "But there's no doubt it's going to be a hard weekend".

Faulkner and navigator Peter Foy were both bitterly disappointed after their Mitsubishi Evo 6 crashed out on the first stage of the "Merrick" with a broken driveshaft.

The Kirtlebridge-based driver admitted that it had been "hard to pick themselves up" for the "McRae", but that they were "now fired up to win".

Said Faulkner of their title chances: "First or second would do, so long as David doesn't finish in the top thirteen. But if David doesn't finish and we win, Euan would need to only finish third to take the title, so it could easily be one of the three of us".

He went on: "Realistically though, the championship has gone, so we are just going to put all that behind us and go out and enjoy ourselves and try to be the only crew to win three events this year. The Hankook championship has been fantastic this year and whatever happens, we want to finish on a high".

Euan Thorburn has moved quietly up the points table as the season has progressed, and now finds himself in with a fighting chance of snatching the title.

The Duns-based competitor, who will again be accompanied by co-driver Campbell Roy, said winning the Group N title was the main target for this year, and now that has been achieved, anything else will be a bonus.

"I think for us to have a chance of winning the title, David would have to have problems and we'd need to finish within at least 3 places of Mike", said Thorburn: "There are obviously lots of other permutations, but that's the one we are looking at as being the most likely".

He continued: "We'll try and do our own thing on the "McRae" as we don't really have the pressure of going for the overall title, as we never thought it would be possible given we are in a GpN car and everybody else is using quicker cars. We'll still give give it go though".

Former championship leader Jock Armstrong was a popular winner of the "Merrick", bringing his Subaru Impreza home 40 seconds ahead of the rest of the field to record his first SRC win.

Although his championship hopes were dashed following exclusion from the "Speyside" for a technical infringement, the Castle Douglas driver is determined to end his season in style alongside co-driver Kirsty Riddick.

Said Armstrong: "The car felt just right on the "Merrick", so there'll be no changes. I'm always out to win and this time will be no different".

After upgrading to an Evo 9 mid-season, the Oban-based duo of Shaun Sinclair and Chris Hamill have proved to be a force to be reckoned with in this year's SRC, as was apparent by their top-five finish on the "Merrick".

Said Hamill: "The car is ready for Perth, following a fuel-pump problem on the "Lindisfarne" which was traced to a faulty seal within the pump. We're both looking forward to a "full on rally week" - which includes recce-ing for the Tunnock's Tour of Mull, doing the "McRae", another Mull recce, and then the event itself! "

Twenty-one-year-old Lanarkshire driver Alick Kerr has shown true championship potential in his Subaru Impreza, putting together a string of impressive results in his first season in a 4WD car , while navigator Drew Sturrock is on course to finish in the top three in the co-drivers' standings.

Andy Horne powered his DAM 4100 Gti to second overall on last year's star-studded "McRae", and the Inverness-based engineer would dearly love to repeat that result next weekend.

It would make up for a very disappointing season for Horne and co-driver Jim Howie, with a non-finish on every round so far.

Fellow Highland competitors Donnie MacDonald and co-driver Paul Beaton are also looking for a strong finish to the season, following their tenth place overall on the "Merrick" in their Evo 9.

Calum Mackenzie led home the 2-wheel drive contingent 12 months ago in his Ford Escort Mk2, finishing just eight seconds behind Horne.

Having sat out the last two rounds, the Inverurie-based driver returns to the fray next weekend with navigator Alan Clark, and says they will be more than happy with a clean run.

"We don't expect to be so competitive, as we have not done enough mileage this year", said Mackenzie, adding: "We're not going out to prove anything, but will just enjoy the stages, and the craic!"

Nevertheless, it promises to be another fascinating tussle among the Mk2 crews, with Mackenzie and Clark up against Steve Bannister/Louise Sutherland, who have already secured this year's 2-wheel drive title, as well as the likes of John Crawford/Dick Wardle, Mike Horne/Robbie Mitchell and Michael Buchanan/Peter Carstairs.

Elsewhere, there are still class honours to be decided, not least in the 1600 category - where Mark McCulloch of Newton Stewart leads Paisley's Alasdair Graham by just three points - both in Vauxhall Corsa's.

Before a wheel is turned on the "McRae", there will be an action packed programme on the eve of the rally at Perth Racecourse.

IRC contender Kris Meeke, who is due to drive his Peugeot 207 Super 2000 as one of the course cars on the Saturday, will go head to head with Subaru America star Ken Block during a demonstration of Dirt 2 - the new Colin McRae off-road racing game - which features Block.

The public will have the opportunity to take part in a challenge to see if anyone can beat the times set by the two star drivers.

Taking centre stage on the night will be the launch of Corgi's new "Colin McRae Tribute Collection", which, when complete, will comprise fourteen 1:43 scale die-cast replica models of the most important competition cars to feature in the career of the 1995 World Champion.

The launch will be followed by the unveiling of an exact replica of the Mini Cooper in which McRae won his first ever title - aged 16 - in the West of Scotland Autotest Championship.

Ken Block will also wow the crowds with a demonstration of stunt driving in his "gymkhana" Subaru Impreza on the tarmac area in front of the racecourse grandstand.

Another highlight will be a presentation by iconic motorsport artist Jim Bamber - the man behind the new "Heroes" collection, featuring Colin McRae's 1995 world championship winning Subaru, and the Ford Focus in which he took his first win for Ford in 1999.

An informal question and answer session is also planned, with Meeke, Block, Jimmy McRae , and former F1 pundit and rally competitor Tony Jardine among those taking part.


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